It happened quick, like a paper cut.
"Hey mate, long time no see - "
Sherlock was so startled to hear a familiar voice in an unfamiliar place that he stopped dead in his tracks, John knocking into his arm a half beat later.
He had choices:
- walk on as if he hadn't heard
- walk on and, if the call came again, turn to see if someone was speaking to him
- walk on and say something to John as if he hadn't heard
- ignore it entirely, though John would notice and probably ask him about it later on
"Will! Hey, Will!"
Pasting an enquiring look on his face, he glanced over his shoulder at the speaker and yes, it was him. No choice at all, then. He scrunched up his face, tilted his head a bit. "Jonas...right?"
Jonas rolled his eyes and came out from behind the front desk. "Bitch, please, don't even."
Sherlock was promptly enveloped in a brief, but tight, hug, which he couldn't help return with one arm. Jonas's black hair smelled divine, a combination of amber and patchouli lightened with a whisper of cardamom. He was aware of John standing next to him, bemused beyond all account.
"I like how you weren't even going to turn around," said Jonas, pulling back and raising his eyebrows. "That was some classy fucking bullshit."
John coughed into his fist
"Right then, who's this?" Jonas looked John up and down, his entire being a cross between curiosity and annoyance.
John, being John, immediately offered to shake hands. "John Watson."
Jonas, being Jonas, immediately took him up on it. "Jonas Honeygrove. What are you doing in this big bastard's company?"
If Sherlock swore, which he did only under duress, and not because he didn't know the words so much as John could do it so much better than himself, he would have shouted "GOOD CHRIST!" at the top of his lungs, thrown his hands up into the air, and walked away as fast as he possibly could to hopefully find a hole he could sink into for the rest of the foreseeable future.
John, who had come to parade rest, rocked back on his heels, eyeing Sherlock and trying not to smile. "Oh, y'know, bit of this, bit of that."
"Mm-hmm," hmm'd Jonas between pursed lips, looking at Sherlock from under his long black eyelashes. "Oh, I know. I can't even believe he thought he could come in here and ignore me."
"To be fair - " started Sherlock.
"Fair my ass," Jonas interrupted, folding his arms. "I haven't seen you since P-town, that thing on the beach. Good times, eh?"
He was irrationally grateful that this little hole-in-the-wall bookstore was empty, because he really did not want witnesses to what was about to be said. The Press would get word and investigations would be made and Mycroft would be very, very angry, even though Sherlock had saved his operation without Mycroft even knowing it. "That thing on the beach was murder, might I remind you, and not 'good times' at all."
Jonas shrugged. "Po-tay-to, po-tah-to."
"So what are you doing here in London?" asked Sherlock, pointedly looking around the store. It was his favorite kind of shop, filled to the brim with old, half-decayed books on topics all and sundry. As a child he had spend hours and days and weeks in shops like this. London was his favorite, of course, though he had found so many treasures in Marrakesh and Istanbul, Paris and Stockholm and New York.
"Oh, y'know, just living and working here."
Jonas looked bemused. He glanced at John, nodded at Sherlock. "It's like he can't even imagine people doing things outside the norm that don't include murder."
"Well, to be fair, murder is pretty interesting," answered John.
"Oh Jesus," said Jonas, looking up and shaking his head. "Another one."
"You're American, you don't have long term visas to Europe any more," said Sherlock, thinking he was missing some important detail, something he had known once. He narrowed his gaze. "You're not really American."
"Ha!" crowed Jonas "Finally, something he doesn't know!"
"That's quite a lot, actually," said John, but his eyes were twinkling, so Sherlock understood he was being gently teased about his mind palace.
Jonas turned and sat one hip against the front desk. "First of all, you're wrong, I'm American all the way, baby, Beantown born and bred. Second of all, my father is English, so I have dual citizenship. Third of all, my wife's Scottish and we inherited this place from her Uncle Iain."
Some kind of expression must have shown on Sherlock's face, for Jonas barked a laugh.
"Yeah, I said 'wife'."
"Congratulations," Sherlock said diffidently.Wife, that was actually rather a surprise. Provincetown at the height of summer was the premier location for gay people in New England. As Jonas had been working in a drag bar off Commerce Street, and things…Sherlock had assumed...well. There was always something.
"So what are you in for, anyway?"
"Anything on the works of Gabriele Tadini di Martinengro."
Jonas frowned, leaned to one side to stare at one of the walls. "Nothing old, I don't think. Try that wall over there, that's where most of the Ottoman history is."
Sherlock moved away from Jonas's atrocious grammar with no little amount of relief. Relief that was immediately waylaid when Faithful John was not, remaining next to Jonas. Indeed, he stepped closer, obviously to talk about Sherlock in an attempt to not be overheard. Foolish. As if he thought Sherlock couldn't pick his little brain later on.
The stack was tall, the books haphazardly shelved, much to his delight as well as his chagrin. Delight, because that meant he could take his time and reorder the whole thing, and chagrin, because John would now talk to Jonas for longer, and Jonas would undoubtedly tell him things. And it wasn't as if Sherlock was ashamed of what he had done...Provincetown was Provincetown, after all. Things happened in the close dark. Yet...since his return, since the thing with Mary - he felt out of sorts. Those damned assumption, his pride, his hubris, use Mycroft's word for it, it was only the truth.
He was 'faking it until he made it', as Mrs. Hudson had once said to him. Admittedly, that had been years ago, but he thought it might still apply. Most definitely applied, actually. If he could be the Sherlock John and Lestrade and Molly expected, then maybe they would start being the people he had once known, too. The problem was that they were different, unpleasantly so, and he constantly felt as if he was running in place while they had all moved on somehow.
"We're having dinner with Jonas next Friday,' John said, just loudly enough to attract Sherlock's attention. "And you're buying the wine."
Ah, how well Jonas had gotten to know him. Still, a wife?.
"Now get the hell out of here, I know this is the last place you want to be now that I've found you out, you big bastard," Jonas returned to his chair, his tone fondly mocking.
"We'll see you on Friday," John said as he headed toward the front door, Sherlock nipping at his heels for once.
Thank god that was over with, between John and Jonas, Sherlock wouldn't've stood a chance.
"And don't think I won't hunt you down if you don't show up, asshole!"
The door closed on Jonas's shout, and Sherlock stormed down the street with a hot face. He could feel John's amusement, John, who was not running to catch up to him, which meant he had to stop and wait and he hated waiting even though John was one of the few people for whome he would actually wait.
And indeed, John was holding up one hand, not even glancing at Sherlock as he walked right on by. "I'm not even going to ask. I know what you're like, with your secrets and all."
"John - "
"No, no, don't try to deny it."
Sherlock crowded around John, trying to make him understand. "John - "
"No! You don't have to tell me, it's fine, just fine."
John stopped, sighed. He did that thing where he put his hands on his hips and stared at his shoes before looking at Sherlock. He was, strangely, smiling. "I'm telling you that you don't have to say what you were doing in America, or why, or how high your score was during that show," he paused, frowning. Then he grinned. "Besides, Jonas'll tell me on Friday."
And he walked away, his usual strut less 'get the fuck out of my fucking way' and more I am the King of the castle, motherfuckers!
Sherlock was doomed.